Overlooking a wooded stretch of the Rufiji River, Impala Camp offers a fabulous location in the wild, majestic Selous Game Reserve in Southern Tanzania. Being one of the most popular camps inside the Selous, Jonathan and Sophie visited to see for themselves
Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby.
It’s late afternoon and we’re cruising along on a boat trip to Lake Siwandu – enjoying the views, the breeze (quite a relief in the 36 degree heat) and, naturally, the abundant wildlife that inhabits this great body of water – hippos grunt left, right and center, crocs laze on every sandbank. Suddenly we come to a halt – Charles, our guide, is excitingly pointing at a flock of birds, flying beautifully in a tight formation, right above the surface of the water, almost skimming it with their beaks. African Skimmers! Being twitchers, this is a real treat for us, thanks to our guide’s efforts.
On our way back to camp, we stop for sundowners at the edge of the old airstrip, but this is no average sundowner stop. While we’ve been out on the lake, Victor has set up a beautiful table with champagne glasses, snacks and, naturally, a cold bottle of South African champagne! We sit back, relax and enjoy the stunning sunset through the palm trees dotting the riverbank. Yellow becomes orange, orange becomes purple and suddenly it’s almost dark and time to return to the camp.
We meet up with the other guests for pre-dinner drinks around the fire, and chat to Sylvia, the friendly and charismatic assistant manager, about our plans for the following day. For dinner we sit under the stars and enjoy a scrumptious 4-course menu of vegetable soup, aubergine rolls, beef fillet, topped off with cheesecake for dessert. We’re accompanied back to our tent by a Maasai guard, leading the way down the long path, a tight grip on his spear and shining the torch up every tree, down every hippo path. There’s no unaccompanied walking during the night as the camp is unfenced – an aspect that we really enjoy, especially waking up to the sounds of at least 15 different bird species outside our tent.
The tents at Impala are built on stilts and each has its own verandah with deck chairs to enjoy uninterrupted views of the bush and/or water. Simply decorated, unpretentious yet comfortable with all modern day amenities, such as electricity, hot water and a plug point. The camp also boasts a pool and a lovely bar with great views of the water – nothing beats game viewing with a cold Kilimanjaro beer in hand!
Selous Game Reserve is one of the great wildernesses remaining in Africa, and the safari action here centres around a clutch of lodges on and around the Rufiji River. Partly water-based, and with fewer crowds than the parks of northern Tanzania, it’s a fine alternative to the beaten tracks of the Serengeti.
For our morning activity the following day we do a game drive with Charles and our fellow French guests. We are lucky to see two different prides of lions (one coalition of 6 males and another consisting of 2 females, each with her own set of cubs), a day-old hippo kill with more than 50 vultures (we spotted 5 separate species!) competing to be king of the carcass, while a few spotted hyenas lurked in the background. A wonderful way to end our stay at Impala Camp.
Good for: Those seeking a semi-luxurious bush experience in the world-famous Selous Game Reserve. Good for families (double tented units available).
Not so good for: No communal dining so the camp has less of an intimate feel than some others
Our verdict: A beautifully located camp with great range of activities (game walks, drives, boat trips, fishing)